- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia made a triumphant return to the ATP Tour by outlasting qualifier Guilherme Clezar 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7) Tuesday in the first round of the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.

Tipsarevic had to save two match points in the tiebreaker, one of them with Clezar serving, to win for the first time since Oct. 1, 2013. Tipsarevic hadn’t played in more than 500 days after two surgeries on his left foot nearly ended his career.

Defending champion Fernando Verdasco from Spain, the sixth seed, moved on when Paolo Lorenzi of Italy retired with a leg injury in the second set.

Other first-round winners Tuesday were Jeremy Chardy of France, Americans Steve Johnson and Jack Sock, Santiago Giraldo of Colombia, Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia and the 18-year-old South Korean Chung Hyeon.

Doctors still can’t assure Tipsarevic, who needed 2 hours, 38 minutes to top Clezar, another tumor won’t grow back in the same spot as the other two. And, if it does, he will have to retire. A third operation isn’t possible.

“My life would not be in danger,” he said, “but I could not play tennis again. Basically (the second surgery) took away about 80 percent of my sole. That’s why it took so long (to return).”

Tipsarevic prepped for his comeback in Houston by playing a doubles match in Miami last week with his countryman, Novak Djokovic, as his partner. It was Djokovic’s idea.

“I would never have asked,” Tipsarevic said.

Djokovic, who also went on to win the singles title in Miami, tweeted Tuesday that he was watching the Tipsarevic match online and wished him good luck.

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